To OB, or not to OB? How big is the question?

Well, how long is a piece of string?

OBs come in a huge range of sizes from single camera ‘live eye’ vans to 30-plus camera mega-trucks. Here’s a sample.

Astralinks provides the satellite uplinks to get the OB signal back from anywhere to home base. But they also do single camera ‘live crosses’ from the most remote parts of the country for shows such as Sunrise.

Owner Craig Beckett says: “We recently did a twocamera shoot of David Koch’s live budget report from Canberra feeding back the two cameras simultaneously to Seven with only a crew of five”.

One truck, having a talkback system, audio mixer and a vision switcher, allowed me to tour for the ‘Channel [V] Music Bus, a four-camera rockin’ music
production beamed live from regional locations across the country. Now that’s efficient!

The OB Group has a busy truck that can fit up to 10 cameras with a full complement of lenses from wide to the massive Fujinon 101:1 monster.

On board, there are tape decks, EVS, character generators, HD vision switcher, CCU’s audio mixer and full talkback facilities.

This enables them to do shows such as the Bathurst 12 Hour, A-League Football and ABC’s Q&A program to name a few.

They also have a small fly-away kit. Now, you may think a fly-away kit ends up being a cheaper option but this is not necessarily so.

OB Group’s Colin Rothenberg advises: “It takes extra time to set up a fly-away kit whereas with a truck, the system comes pre-wired with multiple back-ups in case there are any problems. Fly-away

Cutting Edge started off as a post-production facility in Brisbane, which has grown rapidly in the last 10 years. The really big expansion occurred about 2006 with Big Brother which led to Cricket contracts with Fox Sports and the AFL for the Ten Network.

Now with six flexible OB trucks, they supply anything from three-camera OBs through to 40-camera large productions with full post-production. They’re kept busy with basketball and netball coverage, as well as shows such as Australia’s Got Talent, X-Factor and many more, so they need ‘em.

Their ‘HD1’ van has a spacious and comfortable control room. It sports the capability to handle 34 cameras and full Dolby E & Pro Logic II 5.1 surround sound.

Melbourne operations manager Adam Miller says: “The beauty of the OB truck is they are constantly on the move, which is the best way to recoup the massive outlay for the equipment involved.”

Their latest truck, HD2, is currently being commissioned with 3D technology for the Rugby World Cup final in September.

Gearhouse’s busy OB units also go from small to mega-large. They have four HD and three SD trucks. Their 24 camera HD-1 has all the latest gear and accommodates 27 staff in high-tech heaven. They provided trucks for the 2011 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras where I had 12 cameras including chopper, steady-cam and two jibs broadcasting two channels simultaneously live on Foxtel.

Add the on-ground chaos characteristic of the event and you have a good test of a crews’ experience… they passed with flying colours.

At the other end of the scale, they have two tiny ‘BCX’ vehicles, which handle up to five cameras. “The BCX units punch well above their weight and give the producer a small, unobtrusive but powerful broadcast solution,” Gearhouse’s Ray Martin says.

Global Television is another large outfit with a comprehensive fleet of vehicles. They provide much sport coverage and many OBs for all networks. They delivered AFL live in 3D last year… quite an accomplishment.

All OB companies compete aggressively for work but the nice thing is they also tend to co-operate with each other.

So you know however big or small you go with your production, they will always deliver.

This article originally appeared in IF Magazine #141 June-July 2011. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

Cutting Edge HD-1.

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